Sunday, February 23, 2014

pH Nonsense


Here's something I found while strolling through the woods (of Twitter, that is):

It's an image from this website which claims that poor health is the result of an acidic body. The foods we eat, they say, can dramatically affect the pH of our bodies.

I'm calling bear-shit on this one

pH is the acidity scale that runs (mostly) between 1 and 14. A pH of 7 is neutral, anything less than 7 is acidic and anything greater than 7 is basic (alkaline). A pH of 2 is ten times more acidic than a pH of 3.

The author is correct that your ideal pH is about 7.35 - 7.45. Well, it's not just ideal, it's necessary. Your blood is always going to be between 7.35 and 7.45 as long as you're healthy (and alive). The website suggests that you should use litmus paper in the morning to test your body's pH. If you place a litmus paper on your tongue you probably could get a wide range of pH readings from day to day. But it would tell you absolutely nothing about the pH of your blood. You can't change that - even by eating acidic foods. For one reason your stomach is full of acid to begin with. Your stomach uses hydrochloric acid to break down food and begin the digestive process. Another website I saw explained that a blood pH below 6.9 will kill you - which is completely true. Why, then, do they think your body is so easily thrown off balance by the food you eat? I'm not saying what you eat doesn't matter, but I am saying that acidic foods won't kill you. To prove that point I've fixed the infographic:

Ok, so here's the deal: you eat a lot of acidic foods. Healthy food, unhealthy food, drinks, fruits, vegetables, and just about any food you can imagine is acidic. You'll see by the corrected infographic that healthy/unhealthy doesn't even correlate in the slightest to acidic/basic.

And lemons. Let's talk about lemons. 

Lemons do not have a pH of 10, they have a pH of 2. That infographic isn't just wrong, it's 100 million times wrong. Really! I didn't just make up that number. Remember how I said a pH of 2 is ten times more acidic than a pH of 3? Well, a pH of 2 is 100 million times more acidic than a pH of 10. A pH of 2 isn't even on the scale of the first infographic so you'll find lemons and limes (pH = 1.8) listed under pH of 3 in my corrected version. My version is still wrong, but it's 10 million times more correct!

Instead of just laughing at how ridiculous this error was I decided to investigate a little further. It turns out in certain circles that lemons are praised for their alkalizing properties. This makes no sense and is 100% wrong. An acid absolutely cannot have an alkalizing effect. Proponents of this lemon-magic are arguing that lemons have a pH that changes once it enters your body. They say that minerals, such as potassium will disassociate to make your body more alkaline. As a chemist currently studying dissociation energies of complexes containing potassium I'm interested! Certainly they can explain what it means for potassium to dissociate from itself, because it sounds like nonsense to me. Let's watch the video for clarification:

Oh, I get it! Lemons are acidic alkalizing fruits because of metabolic processes that occur and disassociate the potassium but oranges aren't because of sugars but tomatoes are but only in your body . . . and . . . nope. Bear-shit. 

Again, just look at the corrected infographic above. The food you eat is acidic. Almost all of it, and that's okay. You don't need to start an alkaline diet and you don't need to worry about alkalizing your blood. Imagine how scary it would be if by drinking one soda or eating one lime you could affect your blood's pH so dramatically that it would kill you. Thankfully our bodies do an excellent job of keeping us alive.



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  2. I believe that potassium dissociating from itself refers to potassium-40 "dissociating" from a positron to form argon-40 or an electron to form calcium-40. Of course potassium-40 does have a half-life of over a billion years, so you might need to wait a while to harvest the benefits..

  3. I came across this the other day on Facebook. Somebody had posted that they were alkalizing their body with lemon juice and vinegar. I laughed hard.